"My Way Isn't Working… Where Do I Start to Learn to Be a Godly Wife?"

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What better time to decide to begin learning to be the wife of God’s dreams than at New Year’s?

THE FIRST STEP

The first step to becoming a godly wife – is to have God in your life.

We are ALL desperately  in need the blood of Jesus and the sacrifice He made for us on the cross to make us right with God.

NONE of us can be good enough to impress God on our own.  Only God is good.  We are not.  If I even just look at the 10 commandments in Exodus 20, I see that I fail miserably to live up to God’s standards.   Because, to God, any time I put something ahead of Him in my heart, that’s idolatry.  If I won’t forgive another person, that is hatred which is murder.  If I think about being with another man in my heart, that is adultery.  If I want what someone else has, that is coveting.  If I ever dishonored my parents, I am a law-breaker.  God’s standards are perfect and holy – and my best efforts to be good on my own fall miles short of God’s holiness.

For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.  Romans 3:23

The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 6:23

Some signs that we don’t have God in our lives are: a lack of peace, anxiety, fear, putting other things ahead of God as being more important to us (idolatry), discontentment, anger, resentment, unforgiveness, bitterness and sometimes even depression and hopelessness.

And the way to have God in your life is to have a relationship with Jesus Christ.

“I am the Way and the Truth and the Life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me.  John 14:6

How do I know that I have Jesus?

If anyone loves me, he will obey My teaching.  My Father will love him, and We will come and make Our home with him.  He who does not love Me will not obey My teaching.  John 14:23

Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you,  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not be afraid.  John 14:27.

I am the Vine; you are the branches.  If a man remains in Me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing.  John 15:5

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.  John 15:12-13

IF YOU DON’T HAVE JESUS AS YOUR SAVIOR

Jesus (God’s Son) lived a perfect life and died in our place, taking on the punishment for the wrong we have done that each of us deserved.  He wants to give us the gift of life forever with Him in heaven after we die and an intimate relationship with Himself and God the Father now.

Read this post for more about how to invite Jesus into your life   http://wp.me/P28uul-qN

THE SECOND STEP – JESUS MUST BE LORD.

That is a big problem for many believers!  There is a HUGE difference between having Jesus as your Savior and also having Him as your Lord.

This is where I got tripped up so much for many years.  I thought I was living with Him as Lord of my life – but I was blind to my own sin and my sin kept Him from having the power and influence He wanted to in my life.  I really wasn’t walking in obedience to Him and I didn’t have His Spirit controlling and filling me daily.  I know I was His.  But my sin had disrupted our fellowship and I was missing out on some REALLY powerful stuff with Christ.

My own pride, thinking I knew better than God did and better than His Word did – thinking I was the exception to Gods’ commands for wives and my rebellion against God’s Word as well as my own idolatry – putting things ahead of Christ in my life – showed that Jesus was not fully my Lord for many years.  There is no worse sin than idolatry – and, sadly, the human heart is “an idol factory.”

EVIDENCE THAT JESUS IS NOT IN CHARGE IN MY LIFE:

The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.  I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.  Galatians 5:19-21

I used to think that because I didn’t commit witchcraft or have issues with drunkenness, witchcraft,  orgies or sexual immorality – that I wasn’t living according to the sinful nature.  But if ANY of these things are happening often in my life – it is the sinful nature that is in charge, not the Spirit of God.  That is a SOBERING realization.

EVIDENCE THAT JESUS IS IN CHARGE OF MY LIFE – THAT HE IS MY LORD:

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  Galatians 5:22

When God’s Spirit is in control – I will have ALL of the fruit of His Spirit in increasing measure on a daily basis.  If a lot of these things are missing from my life – or don’t happen very often, I need to look at whether there is sin I am cherishing in my heart that has grieved God’s Spirit and might be keeping Him from hearing my prayers and from working powerfully in my life.

Also, when Jesus is my Lord – I will obey Him.  I will WANT to obey Him.  I will be grieved when I don’t obey Him.  I will make Him, His will, His Word, His presence,. and His plans more important than anything else in my life.  I WANT to spend lots of time with Him.  I want to sing praises to Him.  I want to thank Him.  I trust Him.  I wait on Him.  I am content in Him.  I have His peace, joy and power even in difficulties more and more.  I can’t do this on my own – His Spirit works in me to accomplish these things.

THE THIRD STEP:

Because of my relationship with Jesus and my love for Him – I will study and learn all that He desires my life to be.

As a wife, I will desire to obey God’s Word to me and I will decide to:

  • respect my husband  (Ephesians 5:22-33) – even when I feel unloved.
  • cooperate with my husband’s God-given leadership (Ephesians 5:22-33) = unless he is asking me to sin.
  • not nag, preach, lecture or criticize my husband to try to make him be closer to God (I Peter 3:1-6) but influence him with my respectful, pure and godly behavior
  • be patient with my husband – when he doesn’t deserve it (I Cor 13:4)
  • be kind to my husband, even if he is not kind to me (I Cor. 13:4)
  • not envy my husband having time to himself or time with friends or time to relax (I Cor 13:4)
  • not boast about how “right” I am or how “godly” I am or how “spiritually mature” I am or how much “better” I am than my husband is or how much more money I make or how much smarter I am or how much more wisdom I have (I Cor 13:4)
  • I will leave room to acknowledge that God’s wisdom is MUCH higher than my own and that compared to His wisdom and His Word, my “wisdom” is foolishness.  I will leave room for my husband to share his masculine perspective and wisdom and will appreciate the insights he has to offer and realize that my perspective is not the only one in the world and that God may want to lead me and speak to me through my husband’s wisdom. (I Cor 13:4)
  • not be rude to my husband or disrespectful, even if he was rude or unloving to me first. (I Cor. 13:5)
  • not seek my own way, my own goals, my own will, my own purposes, my agenda, my comfort, my needs to be met but look to meet my husband’s needs and seek God’s will and His glory in my marriage. (I Corinthians 13:5)
  • not be easily angered. (I Cor 13:5)
  • keep no record of wrongs my husband has done to me, and definitely not throw his failures and past sins and mistakes in his face (I Cor. 13:5)
  • not delight in evil happening to my husband or want to see him hurt and suffer and be in pain. (I Corinthians 13:6)
  • rejoice in the truth of God and God’s work in my marriage and my husband’s life (I Cor. 13:6)
  • always protect my husband and my marriage, regardless of what my husband is doing (I Cor. 13:7)
  • always trust in God, His Word, His power and His ability to heal in my marriage and trust in my husband as much as I possibly can (there may be times when he has to earn my trust back, but I WANT to be able to trust him), assume the best about him, not the worst. (I Cor 13:7)
  • always hope in God and in my marriage because I know God is able to work in my marriage. (I Cor 13:7)
  • always persevere and keep on obeying God’s Word for me no matter what my husband is doing or not doing at the time (I Cor 13:7)
  • forgive my husband (all of his sins against me) so that God will forgive me my sins against Him.  (Matthew 6:14-15)
  • repay my husband with good when he does evil to me and when he acts like he hates me (Luke 6:27).
  • bless him when he curses me and pray for him when he mistreats me. (Luke 6:28)
  • love my husband, not hate him.  “Whoever loves God MUST also love his brother.”  I cannot hate my husband AND love God.  If hatred is in my heart, God cannot be there.  I have to choose love and forgiveness to be able to allow God’s Spirit to fill me and empower me to be the wife and woman God wants me to be.  I John 4:20-21

MY MOTIVATION

My desire to be a godly wife MUST be to please and honor Jesus Christ because I love Him more than anything or anyone.  If I try to learn to respect my husband and cooperate with him in order to change him or make him love me more – my husband will feel manipulated and he will know my respect is not genuine.  Husbands are very sensitive to the motives behind our respect!  And so is God.  God weighs my motives constantly.  If there are any ungodly, sinful or selfish motives behind my behavior – that dishonors God.

My goal must be to bring glory to  Christ – I leave the results in His hands.  I must start on this journey of becoming a godly wife without knowing what the results will be.  I trust God for the results in my marriage and for the timing and if/when my husband or marriage might improve or change.

He may change, or he may not.  My responsibility is to obey my Lord.

Most husbands do eventually change in time, when their wives obey God and are full of His Spirit and power.  But it can take a VERY long time.  That has to be ok.  And even if my husband never changes – that has to be ok, too.  My priority and goal is to be close to Jesus and to love and obey Him.

PRAYER

Lord,

I pray that You might help each of us find You.  Let us want You more than anything else in the world!  Let us long to know You more and more.  Let us love You with pure hearts.  Cleanse us of our sin.  Convict us of all that offends You.  Help us to lay still on the operating table as we hold open our hearts to You and allow You to examine each dark corner with Your blazing, holy light and remove the filth and rot in our souls.  Make us the women You desire us to be.  Give us hearts to love and obey You no matter what the cost.  Use us to shine brightly for You in our families, our marriages and in this world for Your greatest glory!

In the Name and power of Christ,

Amen!

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:

The Excellent Wife by Martha Peace

Sacred Influence by Gary Thomas

For Women Only by Shaunti Feldhahn

Check out the posts at the top of my home page:

“101 Ways to Show Respect to Your Husband”

“Husbands Share What is Disrespectful to Them”

“About”

“When She Surrendered”

“Peacefulwife Videos”

A Wife Shares Her Story of a Changed Marriage

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From a wife I began talking with this past summer – she has been actively working on learning to obey God’s Word to respect and submit to her husband for about 5 months at this point, I believe.  There were some very difficult and challenging times, especially the first few months …  THANK YOU for sharing!!!!!  I pray this might be an encouragement to other wives.
Merry Christmas, April. I would like to reply to your blog yesterday, “BUT HE NEEDS MY HELP!” 
For wives reading this, shaking their heads still insisting that God’s message of submission isn’t for them, take it from one with an unbelieving husband. It isn’t about how much smarter I may or may not be over my husband or that I am more spiritually mature because I read my Bible and he doesnt. It is about trusting God.
I am not sure if my husband has accepted Jesus as His Savior yet, I don’t think so at this point. But there is a gigantic change in both of us. He sees it in me, I see it in him – and the cycle of  respect and love is helping run our marriage and our home more smoothly. I know that my family and some friends may be shaking their heads because I have been deferring to my husband for plans and decisions involving our family. It is just not part of our culture now (to respect and submit to our husbands). But it doesn’t matter because my primary ministry is my husband.
I see in him a harder drive to do well at work and to provide for the family. There is an extra umf in him- even in doing work around the house. He even helps without my asking for help. I don’t have to  let him know when I am tired – somehow he senses when I am overwhelmed and he insists that I relax and he does the laundry or dishes (or gets our boys to do it).
He has surprised me with so many things these past few months that I feel like I am in a dream.
It all started with me FINALLY taking a GIGANTIC step of faith in God’s design for marriage – even with an unbelieving husband. It has almost cost me friendships (yes, even with Christian friends). And right now, because he does not agree with me going to Bible study, I do miss that face-to-face intimate fellowship you get in Bible study. But I am doing online studies and though I don’t have that face-to-face fellowship, I am still in God’s Word.
Like I said, I’m pretty sure he has not accepted Jesus as his savior yet but on Christmas eve, as I filled the house with Christmas music (I have been doing this all December), he said,”I love you, Jesus. But right now, all this Christmas music is just a little too much.” (Did you get the first sentence?)
Also, he surprised me with a charm bracelet for Christmas with little head charms for our boys (personalized w/ their names), a heart charm with his name on one side and I love you on the other, a MOM charm and… a cross charm. Many people who knows my husband will tell you he isn’t the most romantic person in the world- but when we were dating he was very romantic. After marriage, it kinda got a little lost somehow- the same way the wife he married got lost after marriage (he always used to complain that I changed when we fought). Now, things aren’t perfect – but by the sheer grace of God, our marriage is better than ever.
From Peacefulwife:
This wife is reaping some amazing rewards in her marriage and her walk with Christ from her willingness to obey God and do things His way.  It took many months to get to this point – and some very painful dying to self.  Men are designed by God to respond to respect and their wives’ trust and submission by becoming better men, by having a heart to serve and usually by showing more love.  Each wife’s experience with learning and implementing respect and submission has its own timing and rhythm.  Some husbands respond quickly.  Some are very confused.  Some balk at the changes their wives start to make at first – but later love it.  Some are more deeply wounded and untrusting and it takes them longer to trust that the new changes are for real.  Some may never respond with love to a wife’s respect –  men do have free will, after all.  Although most eventually do respond to their wives’ changes and to God’s power working in the marriage to some degree.  
Ultimately, I respect my husband and submit to him out of my love, reverence and submission to Jesus – NOT in order to change my husband or “make” him love me.  I set my heart on Christ – not on “feeling loved” by my husband.  I get the energy and power to do this from God’s Spirit working in me.  
For me – feeling loved was often an idol in my life – that became more important to me than Jesus at times in my marriage.  When I have idols in my heart – whether it is my own being in control, having my way, expecting my husband to be Christ to me, or feeling loved – idolatry NEVER satisfies.  I can expect to be dissatisfied, discontent, unhappy, empty, frustrated, lonely, clingy, needy, worried, anxious, afraid and miserable when I put other things or people in God’s rightful place in my heart – or when I am cherishing sin or living in disobedience to God’s Word.  God is going to make sure that idolatry, rebellion and sin don’t satisfy me.  He will only allow me to find satisfaction when I put Him in the place of worship in my heart.  When I seek Him first with all my heart, I experience the fruit of His Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22)  I have to want HIM more than a strong marriage, more than my own way, more than anything!
Respecting my husband and cooperating with his God-given authority in my marriage is a lifetime commitment I make to Jesus – to live for Him – not knowing ahead of time what the outcome will be, but trusting Him no matter what comes.  It is a walk of faith.  I must put Jesus squarely FIRST in my life – by a long shot.  I lay down my life, my desires, my will, my plans, my wisdom and my goals.  And I seek Jesus’ presence, His love, His Word, His glory, His will, His wisdom and His approval.  He will reward me in my relationship with Him and in heaven for my willingness to obey His Word even if my husband never loves me as he should.  My job is to make sure I am abiding in Christ, clinging to Him, seeking Him above all else and living in obedience to Him.  My job is to seek to be a godly wife and mother and to honor Jesus and trust Him with the timing and results – that it will all be for His greatest glory and my ultimate good and my husband’s ultimate good.

A REAL Helpmeet Suitable for Him

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Sometimes we wives think we are helping our husbands when we are actually trying to control him like we talked about yesterday (check here if you missed it!).

That was one of my biggest mistakes.  I REALLY believed I was being helpful – but my husband saw me as being prideful (always “right”) and controlling.  I seriously thought I did know best all the time.  I genuinely believed I made better decisions than he did and that I had to be in charge because my husband “wouldn’t” lead.  Not good!  I had no idea that my husband just needed more time than I did to decide things and that he didn’t show emotions the same way I did and that he had a masculine perspective and approached life differently from the way I did.  I thought that if he didn’t act, think, talk and feel just like me – he was wrong, and I must need to take over.  Ironically, and thankfully – I was so very wrong about him!

It is true that God designed women to complete men and complement them – to be a helper to them.  It is true that God said it was not good for man to be alone.  That was the only part of the creation story in Genesis where God said anything was not good.  Woman was the crowning jewel of all of creation.

A wife deeply yearns to meet some important needs in her husband’s life – that is one of our basic needs as wives.  She wants to know she is valued and precious and cherished by him.  She wants to know that she is touching his soul and meeting his needs in ways that no other woman or person possibly could.

SOME GREAT WAYS TO HELP OUR MEN THAT REALLY FEELS LIKE HELP TO MOST MEN (this is not an exhaustive list!  What is most important is what matters most to YOUR husband.  It could be a neat conversation to start with him some time, respectfully – and be open to anything he has to say and willing to do things differently if he would appreciate that.)

– Give him the gift of leadership in your marriage and home.  Any leader will fail if no one will follow him. Learn to be an enthusiastic, encouraging, cheerful, supportive follower of your husband.  God will use your support, admiration and cooperation with his leadership to help mold your man into a godly man and into a hero!  But it has to be done God’s way – not our way.

Allow him space and time to think and process his ideas like a man.  Understand and study the way he thinks and the way the male brain works and what real masculinity is and embrace it instead of trying to make him become more feminine.  Men are different from women.  That does not mean they are “bad.”  Those differences are actually very important and God can use them for great good if we can look at the strengths our husbands have and appreciate the way God designed them instead of trying to make them think and feel like we do. (Some great resources for this are Shaunti Feldhahn’s book “For Women Only” and Dr. Walt Larimore M.D.’s book, “His Brain, Her Brain.”)

– Be as available to him physically as possible.  Gary Thomas in “Sacred Influence” describes how oxytocin, the “bonding hormone” (that women have such high levels of that make them so relationship oriented and helps them bond with their babies and sexual partner) only increases significantly for men AFTER physical intimacy with their wives.  They truly need a physical connection to be open emotionally.  And the one flesh relationship does things emotionally and spiritually for our husbands that we truly cannot begin to fathom or define as women.  Gary Thomas also describes that “sex is a glue that holds marriage together” – designed by God.  By ministering to our husbands physically, we can help keep them feeling bonded to us and by extension to our children.  We can also help ward off sexual temptation which happens to be the biggest temptation for most men and is extremely destructive to marriages and families and children.  We are NOT responsible for our husbands’ behavior or sin.  But we are responsible for our own behavior towards our husbands and to be available to our husbands sexually (I Corinthians 7:5)

– We directly affect and instill positive or negative attitudes into our children about our husbands and their father.  We can give our husbands the gift of our children’s affection and love by the way we speak of their Daddy and to their Daddy.

Support his decisions as a dad in front of the children.  If there is something he is doing that is truly awful – respectfully approach him in private if at all possible.  Stand united with him as a parent – that is SUCH A GIFT to your children!  More damaging than the occasional too strict or too lenient decision of a dad – is a mom who undermines the dad’s authority in the family and teaches children that submitting to God-given authority is optional.

Keep the house reasonable straight whenever possible.

Honor the schedule your husband prefers whenever you can.

– We can help our husbands demonstrate the love of Christ to us by making their job as pleasant as possible and not being demanding, in a bad mood most of the time, negative, pouting, chronically angry.  We can work on our own spiritual growth and pray for God to make us women of joy, peace, kindness, love, mercy, grace, thoughtfulness, respect, humility and faithfulness.

– We can guard our hearts against temptation and keep our focus on God and our husband.  We must look to God to meet our needs primarily.  Husbands can’t be Christ to us.  If I try to put my husband in the place where God should be, I am committing idolatry (which I used to do, BIG TIME!) and it makes a big, awful MESS.  Only Jesus can be God to me.  When my husband fails me, I can be unshaken because my heart is set on Christ as my King and Lord, not my husband.  God can and will give me supernatural strength, wisdom, peace and even joy to handle difficulties when I am abiding in Him and seeking Him first with all my heart, mind, soul and strength.

– We can make our home a pleasant, cheerful, welcoming, orderly, loving, happy place.  The wife sets the emotional climate of the home – she has immeasurable power over her family in this area.  I pray we will determine to have homes that our husbands WANT to come home to – where they feel accepted, appreciated, admired and wanted.

– We can develop more of a sense of humor and we can work on doing things that make us happy.  This sounds weird to most women – especially Christian women, I think.  How does doing things that make me happy serve my husband?  It sounds SELFISH!  But our husbands LOVE more than anything to see us happy and joyful.  When we take care of ourselves, our husbands benefit from our great mood and beautiful smile immensely!  If I need a nap, or need time with God, or need to go for a walk or run, or need time with girlfriends, or need to eat better – I am the only one who can do those things for myself.  And when I am filled up, I am much easier for everyone to live with!

– We can flirt with our own husbands and be playful, fun and full of wonderful, creative surprises to keep our men captivated by our love.

– We can acknowledge our husband’s spiritual authority and show him honor and respect as the head of the home (even if he isn’t leading by doing all the things we think he should be doing) and talk to our children about respecting their daddy and model respect for our children (even if our husbands are not believers, there are still ways to honor his God-given authority as the head of the home – I Peter 3:1-6).

We can get involved in our husbands’ interests and hobbies and be his buddy.  Men bond by doing recreational things shoulder to shoulder and most husbands would LOVE for their wives to try going fishing, or to the race, or to sporting events, or to sit and watch them work on their project in the shop and just be there, smiling and savoring being together.

– We can put our husbands squarely above our children and other priorities.  Only God should be above our husbands in our lives!

– We can do what our husbands ask of us (as long as they are not asking us to sin or do something illegal).  It speaks volumes of respect to a husband when a wife does the things he asks her to do.

– We can listen to our husband’s ideas, suggestions and solutions and let him be our hero by taking his advice sometimes and letting him know we think he has a wealth of wisdom and insight.

– We can go to him for protection when we are feeling vulnerable or threatened by harm physically/emotionally/spiritually.

– We can make meals he really loves to eat.  We can keep the snacks he likes and drinks he likes in the house.

– We can honor his choices and preferences – and not tell him he’s wrong to like or not like certain things. We can accept him exactly the way he is without trying to change him one lick!

– We can rest in his love and relax knowing he is making wise choices for our family and that he has things under control and doesn’t need us to micromanage him.  Men feel trusted most when we are able to be calm and relaxed and show that we have faith in them to handle things with competence.  Most men see their love as a constant thing that barely changes.  How amazing is that?  I think this is because they are to represent Christ in the marriage and the wife is to represent the church – and God’s love is always constant – His love never fails and never changes.  Of course, husbands aren’t God, but they do tend to have a very constant, unchanging love.  I like that!  Most men don’t understand a woman’s need for reassurance of their love.  Most of the time, even if he is not saying it or writing it with words – he is SHOWING you his love by his actions: he is THERE, he is providing financially, he cares for the cars/yard/house, he gives you the nicer car, he tries to protect you from harm, he gets what you need when you are sick, he comes home every night after work, he tries to make you happy (if he believes it is still possible to please you) … These are some of the ways men tend to show their love by their actions.

– When he does make a mistake, he already knows he messed up.  He probably feels pretty horrible about it on his own. If a wife scolds, lectures, condemns, judges and treats her man with contempt and disdain – the mistake may become paralyzing and insurmountable sometimes.  If we are able, in that moment, to show that we have faith that he will fix the problem and do everything he can to make things right – he will often learn from his failures and become a better man.  There are times when we must confront sin (Matthew 18) – but even when we do that it is with a view towards reconciliation and forgiveness with ourselves and with God – and we MUST deal with any sin in our own lives first before we would attempt to confront our husbands (Luke 6).  But there are also many times to extend grace and mercy.  This takes careful listening to God’s Word and His Spirit on a daily basis.

– We can appreciate the visual temptations he has to face and be empathetic and supportive that his weaknesses are different from ours and that he needs and deserves our help, prayers and support not our condemnation in this area.

– We can pray diligently, faithfully and with great fervor for our husband’s wisdom to lead our family and for every aspect of his life.

– We can welcome him home like we are SUPER glad he is home and make him feel like a million bucks by our big smile and hug and kiss and by having the house calm in order as much as possible when he walks in the door.  We can have supper waiting on the table if that is what he likes.  Or we can give him 30 minutes of peace and quiet to unwind from the day before he has the children all over him.

– We can cuddle with him, show affection and be glad that he desires us.

– We can praise and thank him every time we see him doing something we like.

– We can smile and laugh often! 🙂

Lord,

Please help us learn how to be the best helpmeets for our precious husbands.  Thank You for designing marriage and men and women the way You did.  Let us be more and more like Christ as we learn to be the wives You desire us to be!  Use us to bless our husbands and children mightily!

Amen.

Respect 101 – From the Archives

So, husbands/men need respect in marriage. Women need love. (based on the commands of the Bible, and also experience!)   For many years I tried to give my husband LOVE not RESPECT  – and it didn’t work very well!  I tried to ask him what he needed from me – and he couldn’t really tell me.  It was really frustrating for me and for him.

THE CRAZY CYCLE AND THE ENERGIZING CYCLE

According to Dr. Eggerichs in “Love and Respect,” without love>women react>without respect> men react>without love… and on and on, “The Crazy Cycle.” The good news is, if a husband begins acting in love, he can break the cycle. If a wife begins acting with respect, she can break the cycle.  Just ONE spouse can break this cycle and get the marriage back on track!  Thankfully, there is hope!  His love  >> motivates >> her respect >>motivates >> his love   – “The Energizing Cycle”

A NEW LANGUAGE FOR WIVES

But if you are like I was a few years ago, I found out that I really didn’t understand what respect looked like to a husband. I wanted to give what was needed, but I thought/spoke/breathed love and was blind to the whole male realm of respect. Thankfully, this is a foreign language that can be learned!

FIRST CUT OUT ALL DISRESPECT!

Men can be very sensitive to any hint of disrespect. Part of being respectful involves stopping even unintentional disrespectful communication. Some things that could communicate disrespect to a husband include:
– Asking “why?” (for a detailed explanation, see Shaunti Feldhahn’s “For Women Only”) ie: “Why did you…?” “Why would you…?” “Why didn’t you…”
– Using a “mother-is-not-happy” tone of voice (sounds condescending, critical, judgemental, unaccepting).
– Having an angry/impatient/unfriendly facial expression regardless of the verbal content of a woman’s words.
– Telling him what to do.
– Giving unsolicited advice.
– Criticism

– Dishonest

– Any hint of being demanding/needy
– Don’t expect him to be your best girlfriend. He’s a man! Men are very different from women. When we expect them to act/think/talk like women, we get ourselves into big trouble!
– Too much verbage and emotion can overload a man. Try to censor things down to basics. If it takes more than about 10 minutes to explain feelings, it’s time to wrap up the conversation with, “Thanks so much for listening to me! I feel a lot better just being able to talk to you about things.”
– If we say things like, “You never spend any time with me!” That comes across as an attack and will send a guy running for cover! But if we say our simple feelings, “I’m feeling lonely, would you hold me/listen to me/sit with me, please?” or “I miss you!” when he hasn’t been home as much as you would like. Then we are being true to our feelings without casting blame, and we are a lot more likely to get what we want and need! (Laura Doyle’s “The Surrendered Wife,” and Bob Grant’s “The Women Men Adore and Never Want to Leave)

LEARNING RESPECT IS A PROCESS, LIKE LEARNING A NEW LANGUAGE AND IT TAKES TIME!

These lists are not exhaustive! Just some ideas to get us thinking and appreciating a man’s perspective in marriage. And there are some things that will be specific to your particular husband. It’s ok to ask him, “Is this respectful?” “Was I disrespectful just now?” As soon as I realize that i have been disrespectful, I immediately apologize, without comment. As Laura Doyle points out in “The Surrendered Wife,” if you apologize for being disrespectful, and then add any “ifs” or “buts” to your apology, you will then have to apologize again for being disrespectful again. Just a straight apology with no commentary or explanation gets the job done respectfully!

SOME THINGS THAT DO SPEAK RESPECT TO MOST HUSBANDS
– Give him genuine, brief (cause guys aren’t into words as much as we are!) verbal/written communication about anything he does/says that you admire/appreciate/are grateful for at least a few times a week, or any time you notice him doing something you like.
– Try to do things he asks you to do. Guys don’t talk to vent. If it is a big enough deal for him to mention it, that means it is a priority for him. Doing things he asks (unless they are morally wrong or illegal) are a great way to show respect for him and to show him that he is important.
– dolling yourself up, making an effort to fix your hair/makeup and dress nicely. (don’t have to be a model or a size 0 or spend 2 hours/day, definitely don’t go into any kind of food addictions/exercise addictions to accomplish this), but just the effort of making yourself look well kept speaks volumes to your man about your value for yourself and for him. Try wearing feminine clothing, things you know he loves to see you in.
– Be feminine: soft, receptive, friendly, smiling, gentle.
– Make time to take care of your own spirit/heart/body. He loves to see you happy. But ultimately, we are each responsible for our own happiness. If we are exhausted, depleted, overworked, and irritable – only we can give ourselves a nap, or proper nutrition, or time with God to pray and read the BIble and get our balance back. Then when we are well-cared for, rested, well-nourished, and spiritually centered, we can properly show delight for all the little things our men like to do to bring a smile to our faces!
– Have a friendly, smiling expression whenever you can. And have a friendly, accepting, warm, welcoming, inviting tone of voice.
– Expressing “pure desires” as Laura Doyle describes in “The Surrendered Wife.” ie: ” I want to eat out tonight,” or “I want to fix up the kitchen,” or “I want to do something together as a family this weekend, “I want to go to the beach this year”… Then our husbands have a chance to be the hero and decide when/how/where to do something to delight us. We get much better results this way than, “You should paint the cabinets tonight.” “Our house looks awful, why don’t you ever work on it?”
– “Accept his choice of socks and stocks” as Laura Doyle puts it. When he feels accepted just as he is and knows I am not trying to change him, that opens the door to intimacy! Then a guy knows he can let down his guard and it is safe to be himself and to share his heart.
– Have a willing spirit with a tendency to try to say, “yes!” to your man.

MEN AREN’T WOMEN.  THEY HAVE DIFFERENT NEEDS AND DIFFERENT WAYS OF LOOKING AT LIFE.  THAT IS OK!  WE CAN EMBRACE AND ENJOY THESE DIFFERENCES AND BECOME STRONGER!
As we learn to appreciate and understand the way men think and what they need (and it is VERY DIFFERENT from our own ways of thinking about life), we can do a much better job meeting our husband’s legitimate masculine needs. And when a husband has “affection, appreciation and attention” (as Dr. Laura explains in “The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands”), “he will lay the moon and the stars at your feet for your pleasure.”

Praying for healing in the marriages of my friends! Marriage is HARD! And it can be soo painful. But God can use our marriages to make us more like Christ and to help us grow closer to Him, and to our husbands. I am praying for vibrant, healthy, romantic, wonderful relationships for you all!  But even more than that – I am praying for all of us to become more and more conformed to the image of Christ.

What Does Jesus Want Me to Do in My Marriage?

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Marriage is HARD.

Really – I would even say it is impossible – in human strength and effort alone.

Men and women are SO different.  We think and feel entirely differently.  We have different priorities and needs many times.  We approach things from completely opposite perspectives.  We have very different strengths and weaknesses.  Marriage is practically a recipe for torture – apart from Christ.

That is the key.  If we look to our husbands or to ourselves – we will destroy our marriage.  I must keep my eyes on Christ!  He is the only source of power that will enable our marriage to be what He designed it to be.  I must daily live for Him and abide in Him!

THE PURPOSE OF MARRIAGE

God designed people.  And God designed marriage.  He designed marriage for several purposes:

  • to be a living parable of the intimate spiritual relationship and the oneness of Christ and His church
  • to provide a stable, loving, nurturing, secure, safe, healthy place for children to be born and raised to know God and love Him and to learn how to love others and be prepared to be responsible, faithful, fruitful servants of Christ.
  • to form us more and more into the image of Christ – to make us holy (NOT primarily to make us happy!)
  • to teach children how to have a healthy, vibrant and flourishing marriage and how to be godly parents themselves
  • to provide a solid foundation and building block for healthy, secure, productive and godly societies.
  • to provide companionship and unity in the most intimate human relationship.
  • to provide a safe, loving, perfect place for sex and procreation
  • as a classroom to learn to love and forgive
  • because it is not good for man to  be alone – God designed a helpmeet suitable for him

This list is not exhaustive – but it provides a good glimpse into some of the biggest reasons why God chose to design and institute marriage.

WHEN MY HUSBAND SINS AGAINST ME

The problem with two sinners being married is – they WILL sin against each other and they WILL hurt each other.  There is no perfect marriage partner (except Jesus).  So it is our job to learn to be great forgivers and to tap into God’s power to be able to do this.  When I am putting Christ first and setting my heart on Him, His will, His Word and His glory, He will empower me to deal with anything my husband might do – and I can trust that He will use even my husband’s sin and mistakes ultimately for my good and His glory.

What would Jesus tell me to do when my husband is unkind, verbally abusive, arrogant, demeaning, mean, belittling, disrespectful, unloving, selfish, hateful, prideful, refusing to be intimate with me, trying to force me to be intimate with him, flirting with other women, lying, being irresponsible with money, not taking the best care of our children (in my view), not praying with me, not abiding in Christ, not reading his Bible, being materialistic, putting other things ahead of Christ or ahead of our marriage that are inappropriate…?

LET’S APPLY LUKE 6:20-49 TO OUR MARRIAGES

(I am going to alter the words a bit to fit to our marriages)

Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.

Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied.

Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.

Blessed are you when your husband/extended family members/coworkers/neighbors/others hate you, when they exclude you and insult  you and reject your name as evil because of the Son of Man.

Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven.  For that is how (people) treated the prophets.

But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort.

Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry.

Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep.

Woe to you when (everyone in your life) speaks well of you, for that is how (people) treated the false prophets.  (People pleasing does not please God!)

But I tell you who hear Me:

  • Love your husband when he acts like he is your enemy
  • do good to him if he hates you
  • bless him if he curses you
  • pray for him when he mistreats you.  
  • If your husband strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also.  (I would add, get some godly, wise, experienced help ASAP!)
  • If he takes your (coat), do not stop him from taking your (shirt/dress).  
  • Give to him when he asks you
  • if your husband takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.
  • Do to your husband as you would have him do to you (meet his needs and be a godly wife, just like you want him to meet your needs and be a godly husband)
  • if you love him only when he loves you, what credit is that to you? Even (unbelievers) love those who love them. 
  • If you do good to him only when he is good to you, what credit is that to you?  Even (unbelievers) do that.
  • If you lend to him (give something to him or do something for him) and expect repayment, what credit is that to you?  Even (unbelievers) lend to (unbelievers), expecting to be repaid in full.
  • love your husband when it feels like he is your enemy, do good to him, and lend to him (do kind, respectful things for him) without expecting to get anything back.  Then your reward will be great, and you will be (daughters) of the Most High, because He is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. 
  • Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
  • Do not judge your husband, and you will not be judged.  
  • Do not condemn your husband, and you will not be condemned.
  • Forgive your husband, and you will be forgiven.
  • Give to your husband, and it will be given to you.  A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.  For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

Can a blind wife lead a blind husband?  Will they not both fall into a pit?  A student is not above his Teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his Teacher.

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your husband’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?  How can you tell your husband, “Husband, let me take the speck out of your eye,” when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your husband’s eye.

No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit.  Each tree is recognized by its own fruit… The good wife brings good things out of the good stored up in her heart (her husband doesn’t MAKE her act good, the Spirit of God inside of her causes her to act good!), and the evil wife brings evil things out of the evil stored up in her heart (her husband doesn’t MAKE her act bad, her own sin and fleshly nature cause her to react in sin).  For out of the overflow of her heart, her mouth speaks.

Why do you call me, “Lord, Lord,” and do not do what I say to do for your husband?

I will show you what she is like who who comes to Me and hears My words and puts them into practice.  She is like a man building a house (a life, a marriage, a family), who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock  When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, for it was well  built.

But the wife who hears My words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house (a life, a marriage, a family) on the ground without a foundation.  The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete

Lord,

Give us ears to hear and hearts that are willing to obey.  Tear down any strongholds of the enemy in our souls.  Give us Your power to humble ourselves and submit to You and honor You in our marriages!

In the Name and power of Christ,

Amen!

OTHER SCRIPTURES

Ephesians 5 – God’s design for marriage

I Corinthians 11:2-13  –  God’s authority structure for marriage

I Corinthians 13:4-7  – God’s definition of love in marriage

Galatians 5:19-22 – a comparison of a life powered by self vs. a life powered by God’s Spirit

I John

Receiving Your Husband’s Generosity Graciously

I learned a LOT about being a wonderful recipient of my husband’s attention, compliments, efforts and gifts from Laura Doyle’s “The Surrendered Wife” and from her book, “Things Will Get as Good as You Can Stand – When You Learn that it is Better to Receive than to Give!”

RECEIVING AND FEMININITY

Receiving well is a VERY important part of having a feminine spirit. Like Bob Grant says in “What Husbands Can’t Resist” – “To receive is feminine, to give is masculine.” I had never thought about it like that. Interesting that most women tend naturally to give and give and give to their husbands and it doesn’t work.  I believe we can give – but not with the expectation of changing or manipulating our husbands.  If we do give, it must be to bless our men, with no expectations of receiving something in return.  And we must learn to be wonderful receivers!

Bob Grant suggests that men are at their best when they are giving and women are at their best when they are receiving. The one flesh relationship points to this dynamic, but I believe it is true in all the other areas of life, as well – spiritually/emotionally/financially and even with leadership, protection, etc.

BEING A GOOD RECEIVER ENHANCES INTIMACY!

Many of us have learned that we should be “humble” by turning down compliments and refusing things that people want to do for us. But we lose out on intimacy when we do this! It requires vulnerability and confidence and a willing spirit, but this is something we can ALL learn!

Some ways that husbands try to give to us that we may not notice or count (because these things don’t come wrapped in a pretty box with a bow)

  • Washing our car for us
  • Driving the old car so we can have the nicer one
  • Handling the manually intensive chores around the house and yard
  • Bringing us a glass of something to drink in bed
  • Choosing a movie they know we would enjoy
  • Backing us up when we discipline the children
  • Taking us out for a nice dinner
  • Helping us with computer or technical problems
  • Giving us a massage when we are stressed
  • Offering to watch the kids so we can do something relaxing
  • Offering to pick up milk or something we need from the store
  • Coming to our rescue when the car battery dies
  • Suggesting we go lie down and let them handle getting supper ready and taking care of the children when we aren’t feeling well
  • Filling up the gas tank for us
  • Listening to us talk about our emotions and feelings
  • Opening the door for us
  • Finding a chair for us to sit down when it is standing room only somewhere
  • Helping us with the heavy groceries
  • Taking out the trash
  • Killing a nasty insect
  • Protecting us from some creepy guy at the store
  • Offering us a choice of what music to listen to
  • Giving us a compliment about our appearance

All of these things are gifts that our men give us! And a gift of time, effort or monetary expense deserves appropriate gratitude!

One of the biggest desires men have in marriage is to have a happy wife. Men often measure their success as husbands by the level of happiness of their wives! Men LOVE to do things for us to surprise us, treat us, delight us and make us light up with that intoxicating look of adoration, wonder and gratitude on our faces. It’s one of their FAVORITE experiences in life! They feel powerful, successful, and like a confident superhero when the effort they put forth is rewarded like this!

RECEIVING GRACIOUSLY

SO, it is our job as women to be sure to NOTICE the things our men do for us and to THANK them verbally and with one of our gorgeous smiles. ANY TIME our husbands do something for us, the very least we can do is lavish them with a beautiful smile, looking into their eyes and saying sincerely, “Thank you SO much!” This is reward enough for most men – it gives them a literal high when they see our appreciation, gratitude and admiration.

Let’s practice!

If your man says:

  • “You look so beautiful in that dress!”
  • “Let me get that chair for you!”
  • “Can I pick up some milk for you on my way home?”
  • “Let me get that for you!”
  • “Here’s some water for your nightstand.”

You smile at him graciously, look him in the eyes and say sweetly and sincerely, “Thank you, Honey!”

You do not say:

  • “I look fat! I hate this dress.”
  • “No, I’m fine. I can stand up.”
  • “I have to get a lot more than milk! That doesn’t help me at all!”
  • “I can carry it myself.”
  • “I don’t like to drink water at night.”

These comments negate your husband’s wonderful generosity and thoughtful spirit and deflate him. Accepting his gifts graciously is actually a HUGE gift that only you can give him! And it is one he will deeply appreciate.

As your husband sees that you actually appreciate his time, effort and expense on your behalf, you will find many more gifts coming your way. Men LOVE LOVE LOVE to see their wives happy!

More practice!!

If your man brings you:

  • A new purse that isn’t quite your usual style
  • A lavish bouquet of roses
  • A package of expired crackers from the flea market
  • Tickets to a concert that isn’t your favorite
  • Sporting event tickets for something he is interested in
  • Clothes that aren’t the right size
  • A new set of shelves that don’t quite match your décor
  • ANYTHING

You look him in the eye, you give him your radiant smile that lights up your eyes, and you say kindly, graciously, sincerely:

  • “Thank you! That is SO thoughtful of you! You’re the best!”
  • “Wow! What a great husband you are! THANK YOU!”
  • “That is SO kind of you! You are such a sweetheart!”
  • “I’m SO happy! This made my day!”
  • “Thank you, it’s BEAUTIFUL!”

It doesn’t matter if what he brings you is something you would pick out yourself. He made the effort to please you. He deserves to see you light up and be gracious even if it isn’t exactly what you would have preferred.

RECEIVING NO-NOs

Being negative and criticizing things he gives you and his attempts to please you will leave him feeling defeated, rejected and probably like it’s not worth the effort to give you anything in the future. Ie:

  • “I don’t like that color!” (Give it a try! You may end up liking it more than you expected. You don’t have to use the purse every day, but using it sometimes when you go out with your husband will increase the intimacy between you.)
  • “But we don’t have the money for that!” (Telling him how to spend money feels really disrespectful to him – that’s one reason why it is often best for HIM to be in charge of the finances! And if he is in charge, then if he wants to spend extra on you, that’s his perogative!)
  • “Why did you get me THAT!?!?!?” (Very insulting to his generosity and his taste. You don’t have to eat the crackers, but you can appreciate his efforts!)
  • “Oh, I HATE that group!”  (Consider things VERY carefully before rejecting your husband’s gift!  Is it really that big of a problem, or is this something you could accept and enjoy to be with him and appreciate his generosity?)
  • “You know I don’t like football.” “I HATE football!” (He wants to bond with you by doing something he loves side by side with you. Give him a chance and just enjoy being with him!)
  • “That isn’t my size!” (You can probably wait a day or two and then maybe exchange it for the same thing in your size. But when he gives you something, you can be joyful and grateful and thank him for the gift without mentioning something negative right then.)
  • “That doesn’t match our furniture at all!”

Fan the flames of your husband’s generosity with your gracious receiving. Some things he brings you will be incredibly wonderful and you will absolutely love them! Some things won’t be as on the money, but it is HIS effort, thoughtfulness and generosity that count and deserve to be encouraged!

Lord,

Help us to be great receivers who enjoy what our husbands bring us and who build up our men.  Help us to show that we accept our husbands be being receptive to their gifts and efforts.  Help us to be possible to please and to bring great delight to our husbands.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen!


A New Leader is Born

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CHANGING THE DOMINANT WIFE/PASSIVE HUSBAND DYNAMIC
When a wife has been trying to control the marriage and making most of the decisions and the husband has been unplugged for many months, years or decades – it takes TIME and practice for her to step down and learn to be a great follower and it takes TIME and practice for him to learn to become a great leader.  Men do not generally enter marriage as the most godly, wise, perfect leaders.  It takes trial and error. (Guess what, women often do not enter marriage as the best of followers, either!  I sure didn’t!)  It takes failing sometimes and learning from failure.  Honestly, our response to their failure is way more important, usually, than the fact that they failed!
This is going to require that wives demonstrate more patience, humility, trust in another person and trust and faith in God than we have EVER had in our lives!  We will need God’s Spirit to empower us.  And we will need to be sure we are putting Christ first in our hearts, not our husbands, our being in control, our feelings, our desires, our “rights,” our needs, etc.   It requires that we die to ourselves and live for Christ. But, if we can show that we will support our husbands and trust them to fix things and make things right, if we don’t make a huge deal out of their mistakes  – we will help our men climb to a kind of greatness in their leadership that we can hardly begin to fathom at first.
HUSBANDS ARE GOING TO MESS UP.  THAT HAS TO BE OK.
Of course some times our husbands’ decisions are purely selfish and not from God.  Yep.  Actually, some of my decisions are that way, too.  We are all wretched sinners in desperate need of Christ every moment! That is how it works when there is a human in a position of God-given authority – they will make mistakes and sin sometimes.  That is where I learn to trust that my God is “sovereign enough”  to lead me through my sinful husband – even if he is not Spirit-filled, even if he has idols/sin in his life, even if he is not seeking Him above everything else, even if he is not praying with me.
Yes.  My God is THAT big.
And yes, I can have total peace when my husband leads me even when I believe what he is doing is selfish, materialistic, etc.  God’s promise to me will not fail.  He WILL use all things for my ultimate good and His glory because I love Him and am called according to His purpose.  Romans 8:28-29
My husband cannot keep me from God’s will.  When I trust and obey God and live in His Spirit’s power – I AM in the center of God’s will!  A huge part of that is that I respect and cooperate with my husband’s leadership – unless he is asking me to sin.
NEW LEADERS NEED ENCOURAGEMENT
Your husband may have almost no experience making decisions for himself and leading on his own at this point – in the marriage and family, at least.  He may be a baby leader.  And maybe he is not as close to God as he could or should be right now.
Actually, if a wife has usurped the husband’s authority in the marriage – a husband is almost guaranteed to be in an ungodly state – unless he is extremely Spirit-filled.  But a Spirit-filled man rarely has trouble getting his wife to submit to him and respect him.  A man whose wife doesn’t respect him and won’t follow him will tend to wander from God.  He will be full of anger, resentment, bitterness and woundedness.  He feels disrespected and castrated as a man.  He often either reacts in anger (which does not bring honor to God), or he withdraws from his God-given responsibilities and unplugs from the family.  When anyone lives in disobedience to God’s Word and His commands – ungodliness results.
I can tell you this – the more you lecture or preach or nag or feel compelled to try to make him do things – the less he will hear God’s voice.  Your voice will drown out God’s voice in his soul.  That is what my husband was able to articulate to me long after I learned about respect and submission.  And the more you find good things in him to build him up about and praise him about (actual good things that you genuinely admire) – that will amplify God’s voice.  So does your silence about the things of God – it amplifies God’s voice for your husband when he is not close to God.
As you take off the weight of responsibility and authority in the marriage and respectfully lay it on your husband’s shoulders, or at his feet, he may balk at first.  But he was designed to carry this weight – not you!  He will actually thrive when he learns to lead.  And if you can channel your leadership abilities to support, affirm, cheer on and encourage his efforts to lead – I believe you will see God do miracles in your marriage!
What he can “hear” from you early on in this journey  is your respect for him as your husband and your respect for him handling things as he thinks is best and your support of him as the God-given leader of your family.
I think your willingness to support your husband even when you disagree with him is going to bond him to you in ways you can’t imagine.  And I think it will force him to begin to feel the weight of his leadership like never before and will make him want to start making the best possible and most selfless and godly decisions.  It might take seeing you suffer because of his poor choices.  But if you suffer for doing what is right – you are blessed!  Your goal must be to cling to Christ and not respond with evil or out of sinful motives.  If you are firm in Christ through all of this, he will clearly see the consequences of his decisions and your faith and trust in him – and he will want to do better.
A GODLY MARRIAGE IS A JOURNEY, A LONG PROCESS OF LEARNING
No one starts out being able to perfectly love and respect in a way that honors Christ – it is a process of learning and a process of discovering.  Marriage is a tool God uses to make us more holy and to see things about our relationship with Him we wouldn’t be able to see otherwise.  Sanctification takes a life time!  There will be varying degrees of hypocrisy as people are learning and growing and maturing.  That is inevitable.  We are never going to do this stuff perfectly.  But with God’s Spirit in us, we can have victory more and more.

Giving Our Children the Gift of Peace

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Many parents are scrambling to find the BEST Christmas gifts for their children – spending hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars on toys, electronics, clothes and jewelry.  It’s so normal now for Christmas to be all about STUFF.  We easily turn Christmas into a monument to materialism, selfishness, greed and things.  Santa and gifts and decorations can become idols to our children, even to adults – as we set our hearts on those things above our desire for Christ.  It is a struggle to focus on Jesus and His truth in our culture and not allow Christmas to become something ungodly.

But there is something even worse, in my view.

TURNING CHRISTMAS INTO WAR

Christmas is supposed to be to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ – the coming of the Messiah – the Prince of Peace.  But for many families where Christ is not Lord, celebrating His birth becomes another occasion for feuds, hatred, bitterness, contempt,  rage, screaming, cussing and even violence.

  • DIVORCE – What an ugly thing Christmas can be in this situation.  Each parent battles to have the children for themselves on Christmas.  Or they have to measure out the minutes and it has to be “exactly equal” or it is NOT FAIR because “he got the children one more hour than I did.”   It can become a competition to see who can buy bigger and better gifts sometimes so that the children will “love” the more generous parent more.  Some ex-spouses even use the celebration of the birth of the Son of God to create hostility in front of their children, screaming and calling the other parent the most dreadful things and saying, “I hate you!” in front of their children.
  • DIVIDED FAMILIES – Other families are not in a divorce situation, but there is incredible tension and division in the home between parents.  The celebration of Christmas becomes a battle ground of who gets to have control and power and make the decisions.  And the bickering, fighting, yelling, cursing, hatred and sometimes violence become the main event.

When we are living “in the flesh” we will have results like these.  It is a guarantee:

Live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.  For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature.  They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.  

The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.  I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control…

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.  Galatians 5:16-17,19-24

OUR CHILDREN

What does it do to a child to witness his parents tearing each other down, berating each other, hating each other, calling each other horrible names, accusing each other of terrible things, fighting over the children, trying to take revenge, trying to cause as much pain as possible to each other, using their children as weapons against each other, full of rage, bitterness and resentment – all in front of their children?

A child loses:

  • his sense of security and safety
  • his understanding of a loving God
  • his ability to have trust in relationships in the future
  • his ability to have peace himself
  • any joy that Christmas might bring

A child gains:

  • incredible anxiety and fear
  • a desire to try to control others to attempt to maintain his own safety
  • a sense of guilt – that the hatred is somehow his fault
  • grief over the dream of his family being a loving, joyful, beautiful place
  • a picture of God being as out of control and unloving as his parents
  • an inability to respect God-given authority and to submit to God and to God-given authority
  • health problems related to stress

This list is not exhaustive, certainly.

TO HATE A PERSON IS TO BE AS A MURDERER IN GOD’S EYES

Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him.  I John 3:15

We love because He first loved us.  If anyone says: “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar.  For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.  And He has given us this commandment: “Whoever loves God must also love his brother.”  I John 4:19-21

It is time to ask God to examine our hearts under the surgical light and instrument of His Word.  It hurts to lie still while He removes all the filth and rot and does open heart surgery on our souls.  But we NEED it!  If that root of bitterness and hatred does not come out, it will destroy us and our fellowship with God and we forfeit the power of God to work in our hearts and lives.  We cannot afford the luxury of hatred!  We need Jesus desperately!  And we need His power in us so that we can be the people He wants us to be.

THE GREATEST GIFT

What I desire for all of our children for Christmas this year is that they might see the peace and power of God modeled in their parents and that they might experience the peace of Christ in their families and homes.

For this gift to be a reality – it will take each of us submitting ourselves fully to Christ and His Word and His will.  We will have to give up our rights, our way, our desires, our wisdom, our plans, our will, our selfishness and be willing to embrace God’s will, His way, His wisdom and His glory.  It will mean looking out for what is best for our children, not just what I want.

It will mean my willingness to humble myself and return evil with good, to pray for those who misuse me and for those who mistreat me.  It will mean that I must be willing to sacrifice of myself for the good of others.  For example:

  • If I am divorced, I may decide God is calling me to be generous and allow my ex-husband to have the children all day on Christmas day, and I can make arrangements to celebrate with my children another day that week graciously and cooperatively.
  • Even if my husband or ex-husband is hateful towards me – I can choose to submit to Christ and to be filled with His Spirit’s power and to respond with gentleness, respect, godly love, peace and strength.
  • I can lay down my agenda and my way and my insistence on being “right” about how to celebrate or where to celebrate Christmas and cooperate with my husband and realize that the details of the celebration and the gifts are no where near as important as the gift of giving my children peace of mind, unity, love and respect between their parents.
  • I can respond to hatred with blessing.
  • I can respond to cursing with the power of prayer.
  • I can respond to mind games and power plays with generosity, kindness, cooperation and respect (unless I am being asked to sin).  THAT will bring glory to Jesus and might just cause my husband or ex-husband to go, “HUH?!?”  And start thinking that maybe this Jesus that I have is really a treasure.
  • I can refuse to yell and scream and cuss.  I can ask God to fill me with His Spirit and give me self-control so that my children don’t have to witness the horror of their mother being full of rage and out of control and scary.

When I genuinely have God’s peace in my own soul – God will empower me to have peace with other people AND I will also be in a position to share God’s peace with my children and teach them His ways.  There is no better gift than the Lordship of Christ and all the spiritual riches of heaven!

Lord,

How I pray that You might change OUR hearts today.  Convict us of our hatred, bitterness and wrong doing.  Show us the ungodliness in our souls.  Help us to have godly sorrow and to turn from our ways and our wisdom and to humbly turn to You – knowing we are wretched sinners who desperately need Jesus every moment!

Change us!  Make us the wives and moms and ex-wives You desire us to be.  Let Your Spirit rule in our hearts.  Let Your powerful love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control be the hallmarks of our lives!  Richly bless our children through us.  Pour out your Spirit on us and remove anything offensive to You and pour through us to our precious children.

Let our homes be sanctuaries of peace with God and peace with one another.  Let our homes be full of the joy and strength of Christ.  Let our homes be full of faith in the almighty God.  Let us make room in our hearts for You this Christmas and every day, Lord!

In the Name and power of Christ,

Amen!

FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO ARE AUDITORY LEARNERS, here’s a Youtube video on this topic!

http://youtu.be/7WjPhS7MHCo

Forgiveness

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We have been focusing on bitterness a good bit this week.  If you have missed it, here are links to the other posts:

Be Still My Bitter Heart

Bitterness is Toxic and Contagious

Exploring the Depths of Bitterness

Finding God’s Victory Over Bitterness

STEPPING STONES TO FORGIVENESS

I want to see ALL traces of bitterness gone in myself and in all of you!  I want to see Christ deliver us from our sin that we might live in His victory and abundant life full of His peace, joy and purpose.  Just the smallest amount of bitterness or unforgiveness will grow into a destructive force of evil in my life.

If you live with people, you will have plenty of “legitimate” reasons to be bitter.  You will be sinned against – and it is not wrong to feel anger when someone sins against us.  Anger is a gift from God that is supposed to alert us to our boundaries being violated or us being sinned against. But, in that anger, I am not to sin!  And I must get rid of the anger and deal with it quickly before it gives the enemy a foothold in my life.

So, how do I begin to forgive when I am deeply hurt and someone sinned against me?

SEE THE DEPTHS OF MY OWN SIN AND THE MASSIVE DEBT CHRIST PAID FOR ME

For me, this is the first step.  I used to think I was really “not that bad” and didn’t have much sin in my own life.  That massive PRIDE in my heart fueled ungodly thoughts in me like:

  • I don’t deserve to be treated this way
  • I would NEVER do that to someone.  I am so much better than that person
  • I am a victim here
  • I deserve to hold on to my anger and unforgiveness
  • He/she doesn’t deserve my forgiveness

When I think that I am above reproach – I start to think I shouldn’t have to forgive.  But that is so untrue!  God Himself is SINLESS and HOLY and He forgives.  Am I above God that I am exempt from forgiving others?  That was PRIDE in my heart.  SKY HIGH PRIDE.

When I start to look at MYSELF – and begin a rough tally of all the sin in my own life – just in my past (not to mention my future!) – I know now that I owe Jesus “billions of dollars” of sin debt.  I had constant idolatry in my heart for decades (acting as if I were sovereign instead of God, putting myself and being in control up as an idol, expecting my husband to be Christ and making him an idol), PRIDE, PRIDE, PRIDE, unforgiveness, gossip, bitterness… MOUNTAINS of sin.

When I see the sin in my own life – and how desperately I need forgiveness and all that Christ has forgiven me for – how can I not show that mercy to others who sin against me.  They are doing the SAME things that I have done!  I need mercy, and so do they.

(Matthew 18:21-35 – a parable about how we are to forgive)

UNDERSTAND THAT IF I REFUSE TO FORGIVE, GOD WILL NOT FORGIVE ME.  I NEED HIS FORGIVENESS!  THIS IS NOT AN OPTION.  IT IS  A COMMAND AND A NECESSITY.

It is spiritual suicide for me to refuse to forgive someone.  I then forfeit God’s power working in me, His strength, His Spirit’s filling me, His forgiveness and the fruit of His Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.  I NEED those things!  I need the presence and intimate fellowship of Christ.  I have NOTHING without Him!

I am addicted to Jesus.  He is my LORD.  I need Him in my life and I MUST have him.  I need to do whatever He wants me to do in order to stay close to Him and be able to abide in Him.

Read the book of I John this week if you can.  Read it with bitterness and unforgiveness in mind and see how God wants us to live if we belong to Him.  There is no room for sin.  It all has to go!  Unforgiveness = wickedness to Christ.  I cannot afford the luxury of unforgiveness.

UNFORGIVENESS AND BITTERNESS ARE GATEWAY SINS THAT LEAD TO MANY OTHER SINS – IT IS POISON!

Not only do I forfeit the blessings of God and of obedience when I refuse to forgive, I embrace the poison fruit of unforgiveness and bitterness.  It leads to death!  Death of relationships, depression, anxiety, many other sins (gossip, division, feuds, jealousy, lack of faith, even stealing, suicide or murder if it is left long enough in my heart).

A tiny amount of bitterness grows and takes over my soul, my thoughts, my life and my identity.  It can actually become my purpose in life if I allow it to continue – it can become my idol!  Other people can see bitterness in me and it makes me toxic to everyone else.  People will want to avoid me.  Bitterness is contagious – the Bible says not to let a bitter root grow up that will defile many.

This is SERIOUS stuff!

GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY – THE LIFE OF JOSEPH

One of my favorite stories about forgiveness is that of Joseph in the Old Testament (Genesis 38-45).  If anyone had reason to be bitter, it was Joseph.  His brothers were jealous of him and staged his fake death and sold him into slavery.  As a slave, his master’s wife accused him falsely of attempted rape and he was sent to prison, though he was innocent.  In prison, he helped the Pharaoh’s cup bearer, but the cup bearer forgot to mention Joseph to the Pharaoh.  He was a slave or a prisoner for MANY YEARS.

But this young man did not become bitter.  I LOVE his attitude and how he handled things!  He trusted himself to God.

And when the time came that his God-given dreams came true and he stood before his brothers as the 2nd in command in Egypt and they were all bowing down to him – he responded in godliness. He did test his brothers to see if they had changed.  He checked to see if they were trustworthy.  But then, when he revealed himself to them – he did not have them killed or imprisoned or tortured.  His response amazes me!

Do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.  For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will not be plowing and reaping.  But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.  So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt.”  (Genesis 45:5-8) And he forgave them, loved them, hugged them, wept with them and gave them the finest clothes, food and land and he provided for them out of all the wealth God had given him.

GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY – THE LIFE OF JESUS

Jesus, also, was able to forgive as He was being crucified because:

1. He knew that the people didn’t realize what they were doing

2. He knew that it was God’s will for Him to suffer and die and take the punishment we deserved so that God’s wrath might be satisfied, and He might make a way to bring us into a right relationship with God.

He trusted the sovereignty of God.  This wasn’t about him and being comfortable. This was about doing what God wanted Him to do so that He might save many from hell and from separation from God.

GOD IS SOVEREIGN OVER MY LIFE, TOO

When someone hurts me or wounds me or sins against me – what they intended for evil, God intends for good and He can and will use even the sin of others against me to accomplish His good purposes, to make me more like Christ and to bring great glory to Himself.

This is a HUGE key in being able to forgive – to see the sovereign hand of God in the midst of my pain and to trust His heart even when I can’t trust the heart of the person/people who are sinning against me.

Bitterness is Contagious and Toxic!

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Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.  See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.   Hebrews 12:14-15

WHAT IS IT ABOUT ONE PERSON’S BITTERNESS THAT DEFILES MANY?

In this passage – there is a TON of spiritual meat!

  • it is impossible to live in peace with others and be bitter
  • it is impossible to be holy and be bitter
  • it is impossible to see God without holiness
  • it is impossible to grasp the grace of God and be bitter
  • bitterness grows to cause trouble (in the church, in families, in businesses, in neighborhoods, ANYWHERE)
  • bitterness yields a toxic harvest that contaminates many people

1. My bitterness may lead others to become bitter towards the same person/thing I am bitter about

When I am bitter – I am seething with unforgiveness and a sense of justifiable anger.  I am fueled primarily by PRIDE – pride that I don’t deserve this treatment and that I am better than the person with whom I am bitter, that I ought to be sovereign instead of God, that I know best for myself and for others, that I should decide and dole out what the punishment for sin against me should be… LOTS OF PRIDE.

I cherish my grudge more than my relationship with God.  My bitterness leads me to more sin.  As the bitterness tree grows – it takes over my heart, my life, my thoughts, my words and my actions.  The tree begins to develop fruit.  Fruit like – hatred, avoidance, lack of love, lack of faith in God, deceit, lying, being divisive, gossip, possibly even violence or adultery – depending on my situation.  And the fruit drops into my life and the lives of those around me, rotting and allowing the small seeds of bitterness to spread and germinate in other places.

When I am bitter, I WANT to gossip about the person with whom I am bitter.  I WANT to run them down.  I WANT to hurt their reputation and try to build myself up by stomping them into the ground.  Gossip defiles my listeners.  And the people listening to me may become convinced to become angry, unforgiving or bitter towards the target of my bitterness, too.  Or, at the very least, they will lose respect and regard for the target of my bitterness or for me!  This happens at work, in extended families, in the church and especially in the home.

Children who have a parent who sets out to turn them against the other parent often develop great bitterness and unforgiveness themselves towards that other parent – not realizing until they are adults how much they have been defrauded by the bitter parent.  They can literally be robbed of the love of one parent and a relationship with that parent by having a bitter parent try to turn them against the other parent.

2. Others may become bitter towards me because it is HARD to love a bitter person.  My bitterness is so obnoxious, foul and toxic.

When I am bitter, I become more and more consumed with my anger, my justification of my own sin, my pride, my rights, my desire for revenge, my needs, my purposes, my will, MYSELF – that I can hardly see anything or anyone else around me eventually.

There is certainly no room for Christ to co-exist in my heart with a tree of bitterness.  Even a tiny seed or root of it offends His holiness.  I have to choose – Christ or bitterness.

It is HARD to love someone engulfed in bitterness.  They are sharp and prickly.  They practically develop a force field around them that love bounces off of.  It is exhausting to be around them.  They are depressing and draining.  They are an endless pit of need and negativity.  It is EASY to begin to develop bitterness towards a bitter person.  Of course, Jesus can give us to power to continue to love them  – but if we start reacting in our own flesh, we can be very tempted to be bitter with one who is bitter.

3. Bitterness can become my idol.

I can become completely entangled if bitterness continues to grow unchecked.  My very identity becomes BITTERNESS toward a person, an event or even God.  The tree of bitterness, and many generations of offspring trees that grow from the seeds of the fruit of the first tree – produces a FOREST of sin in my life that is inescapable.

If I am a very bitter person, I only want to talk about one thing – my bitterness.  (Bitterness grows in stages and is progressive, so it may start out only consuming a portion of my attention, but if given plenty of fuel and a  nourishing environment of continued anger, pride, rebellion against God and unforgiveness – it will completely take over my soul.)

It can become my IDOL.  I want to wallow in it and luxuriate in the mire of it.  I want to run the other person down – or run God down.  I wants the world to know what a victim I am and how powerless and wonderful and innocent I am and what justice I have been denied.

Bitterness blocks my view of God’s sovereignty.  When I am bitter, I cannot accept God’s grace for myself or for my offender.  I cannot receive grace.  I cannot give grace.  I cannot forgive.  So God will not forgive me.  It is a dark, depressing, lonely, cold, miserable prison.

If I am bitter with a person – I am ultimately also bitter at God.

For anyone who does not love his brother whom he has seen, CANNOT love God, whom he has not seen.  And He has given us this command: Whoever loves God MUST also love his brother.  I John 4:20b-21

We don’t understand that God counts the way we treat other people as if we are treating Him that way.  The person to whom I show the least amount of love is the way I love God – that is how He judges me.

Whew!  What a scary thought that is!

The whole book of I John is an incredible study on NOT living in bitterness and hatred, but living in the love of God.

Idolatry destroys my fellowship with God and destroys every facet of my life – my soul, my relationships, my finances (eventually), my health, my emotions, my family…  Idolatry has a steep price – it causes discontentment, an insatiable desire for more that cannot satisfy, frustration, anxiety, worry, lack of joy, lack of peace, misery and sometimes even death.

4. Others may become bitter with God because of my bitterness

If I am bitter – I won’t forgive.  I won’t accept God’s grace for myself and I won’t extend God’s grace to others.  God says I am wicked if I refuse to forgive as I have been forgiven (Matthew 18).  I am a slave to sin and the flesh, and I can’t have God’s power or His Spirit or the fruit of His Spirit in my life.  I don’t see the sovereignty of God to work through this situation for my good and His glory.

So – I cannot shine for Christ.

In fact, if I call myself a Christian but am holding on to bitterness, I convolute and distort the image of Christ that I am projecting and will REPEL others from the gospel and the truth of God.

Why would anyone want to come to Christ if living for Him looks like ME – living in bitterness?

Especially my spouse and children will be affected.  If they are not believers, my horrific “witness” will erect a massive stumbling block for them to come to Christ.  I am an awful billboard for Christianity and for Jesus when I live in disobedience to Him.  If they are believers, my poor example will influence them greatly towards ungodliness, too.

My sin will trip others and entangle them.  They may resent God and be bitter at Him, too.  Because my bitterness is contagious and because I can make it hard for them to see the sovereignty of God, the love of God, to accept the grace of God.  And, I make it REALLY hard to love me.  And if they don’t love me, they can’t love God.

THANK GOD HE HAS PROVIDED VICTORY FOR US IN JESUS!

If Jesus is not your Savior and Lord – you can pray and ask Him to be.  Check out the post on my home page about how to have a relationship with Christ!

For those of you who have accepted Jesus as your Savior and Lord – here is what we can do when we are convicted of sin:

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.  I John 1:8-9

PRAISE GOD!

The blood of Jesus is strong enough and more than sufficient to cover any sin we might commit.  We can ask for forgiveness.  We can agree with Him that what we are doing is sin.  We can turn from our sin and decide we want to walk on God’s narrow path that leads to life.  And then we need HIS power to be able to obey Him.  So that means, we allow Him to remove all the sin in every corner of our hearts.  We abide in Him – we stay in His Word often.  We pray continually through the day.  We seek His will, His wisdom and His glory and we lay down our own selfish desires and our wisdom .  We long to obey Him in everything.  We ask Him to fill us with His Spirit.  We are still and listen for His voice and read His Word with a deep hunger.  We want HIM more than ANYTHING in life.

Precious sisters in Jesus,

The bitterness has to go!  I am looking at myself first.  We cannot afford to hold on to this destructive sin anymore.  How I pray that God might speak to each of our hearts and tear out every trace of bitterness -replacing it with His Spirit, the fruit of His Spirit and His abundant life!

In the Name and power of Christ,

Amen!

RELATED POSTS:

Exploring the Depths of Bitterness

Finding God’s Victory Over Bitterness

Be Still, My Bitter Heart

We Are Always Wretched Sinners on Our Own – We Never “Arrive”

A Peacefulwife VIDEO about nonverbal disrespect